Strange But True

Zell: Tribune Papers Better Than Before

“I promise you I did not come here to be the captain of the Titanic,” Sam Zell famously told the Los Angeles Times after he bought the Tribune Company last year for $13 billion. Of course, since then he’s overseen some of the deepest cuts in the media recession, but don’t worry—the man once known as “The Grave Dancer” says the company’s newspapers—which include the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, and Baltimore Sun—are better than ever! “Would you argue that the journalism is improved from when you purchased your newspapers” Conde Nast Porfolio editor-in-chief Joanne Lipman asks him. His reply: “Interestingly enough, my customers say yes…I’ve reformatted all eight newspapers—they’re much louder; they’ve got more pictures…I mean, simple things. I ride my motorcycle to work every morning…I say goodbye to my wife as I walk out the door, and I used to ask her, ‘What’s the temperature?’ Because if it’s bitter cold, there’s a problem. And then I would see her go, ‘Argh!’ as she tried to find where the weather is in the newspapers. And in the reformatted Chicago Tribune in the bottom left-hand corner it says, ‘64 today, 75 tomorrow, 83 the next day,’ in one quarter of an inch in the lower left-hand corner. Isn’t that information that everybody wants?”